Wednesday, July 09, 2008

If You're Looking For A National League Team To Adopt, Choose The Brew Crew

It doesn't get the same fawning over like St. Louis, or even Detroit, does. But Milwaukee is as fine of a baseball city as you'll ever find.

You want history? There was a Milwaukee franchise in the inaugural American League season, way back in 1901. That team was called the Brewers, just like the contemporary version. And there's been minor league ball all along, in between the major league versions. From 1902-1952, the Brewers played in the American Association. Then, when the NL Boston Braves moved after the 1952 season, they landed in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Braves existed until 1966, when the team moved to Atlanta. But Milwaukee was without MLB for only four seasons before the current incarnation of the Brewers joined the AL in 1970, snatching the transplanted Seattle Pilots franchise. So from 1901-2008 -- 108 seasons -- Milwaukee was without major or minor league baseball for only a handful of seasons.

They love their baseball in Milwaukee. What else would you expect when the city is crawling with breweries, and baseball and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly? This might partly explain St. Louis's reputation -- also deserved -- of being a great baseball town, with that city's affiliation with beer, too.

I don't know if you, as a Tigers fan (assuming you are; most people who read this blather on my blog count themselves Tigers boosters) pay any attention to the National League, much less have a favorite NL team that you like to follow. Mine happens to be the Dodgers, for reasons I've explained in the past. But I think choice 1-A for me are the Brewers.

The fine folks in Milwaukee haven't had a lot to cheer about lately, in any sport, unless you count their being fans-by-proxy of the Green Bay Packers. But even the Pack don't play games in Milwaukee anymore. The Bucks have been duds. So too the Brewers, who were one of the poster children for people making their case that a small market team could never compete in today's game. The Brewers have been the Tampa Bay Rays (pre-2008) of the NL since switching leagues in 1998. Now we could have a Tampa-Milwaukee World Series. No joke.

The Brewers, according to GM Doug Melvin, are "going for it" -- hence their trade the other day with the Cleveland Indians for top-drawer starter CC Sabathia. They are practically tied for the NL Wild Card, and despite that league's warts, a playoff spot is a playoff spot. Now they have the lefty Sabathia to go with righty Ben Sheets as a pretty good tandem at the front of the rotation.

There's the Prince, too -- Prince Fielder, Cecil's son. He's a monster. The rest of the roster is sprinkled with young, mostly nameless players who are hungry and full of energy -- not unlike the '08 Rays.

It would be fun to see Milwaukee get pennant fever again. The team hasn't really sniffed the playoffs since playing in the 1982 World Series.

Great baseball cities like Milwaukee shouldn't have to suffer through a streak of missing the playoffs like their current one of 25 years. Tigers fans should agree, having gone through 18 straight playoff-less seasons from 1988-2005.

So I'm adopting the Brewers as my second-favorite NL team, behind the Dodgers.


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